Governor Newsom Wants to Know Why It Takes So Long to Get a Building Permit in San Francisco

Aug 24, 2022

Governor Newsom is demanding to learn why it takes so long for the city of San Francisco to issue a building permit for housing. What’s ironic is that when Newsom was mayor of San Francisco, he managed the building process, and it was equally as slow and cumbersome. Two mayors later, nothing has changed.

San Francisco’s process for issuing building permits is notorious for being one of the most cumbersome in the country. The city takes an average of ten months to issue a permit, compared to six months in Los Angeles and New York City. There are various reasons for this, but some key factors include the high cost of development within the city, the number of reviews that a project must go through before it’s approved, and the lengthy appeal process.

The high development costs in San Francisco are a significant deterrent to building in San Francisco. To cover the expenses and make financial sense, developers must partner with multiple entities and go through several rounds of reviews. The city also has a lengthy appeal process, which adds several more months to the already prolonged process.

While there are certainly some drawbacks to San Francisco’s building permitting process, there are also some benefits. The city has a rigorous review process, which helps ensure that all projects meet high standards. Additionally, the appeal process can help ensure that developers are held accountable if they don’t follow through on their promises. Overall, San Francisco’s permitting process is far from perfect, but it does have some advantages over other cities.

The challenge we’re facing is the process in place is far too cumbersome and too slow, subject to layers of approval and downward pitfalls. The current process truly only makes it possible for the wealthiest players can play and develop because without deep pockets and a lot of money to risk, you are jumping into a dark hole when dealing with the city’s permitting process.

Finally, even once a project has been approved, as in the case with the 5th and Market Street’s proposed residential tower, it turns political. Members of the Board of Supervisors intervene and either prolong or cancel approved projects, which is now igniting the Governor’s intervention in trying to promote more state housing projects.

With a focus on solving the housing crisis, maybe Governor Newsom will be able to make real changes to this process so we can see real results soon. 

Image via Pexels

Written by: Hans Hansson

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Hans Hansson is President of Starboard Commercial Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 35 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email [email protected] or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website,